Despite strong expectations regarding the role that forestry, with its multitude of potential benefits, could and should play in the ‘bio-economy’, little research has been done on the actual perceptions of influential actors on how to best address future forest land-use disputes. We want to shed light on whether and in which contexts expectations regarding the bio-economy, e.g., the strong role of markets, are likely. The paper analyses influential actors’ core values and beliefs about the primary facilitators and the most appropriate instruments for resolving disputes over future forest land use. We used Social Network Analysis-based sampling and a quantitative semi-structured questionnaire, which included a preference analysis with twelve items covering broad issues and disputes related to future forest land use, to identify actors’ beliefs about and preferences for facilitators and policy instruments within key issues for future land use. The respondents were asked to identify one of five ‘primary facilitators’ (state, market, society, individual citizens/owners, leave it to nature) and distribute six points to a maximum of three preferred instruments (eight items, covering a broad set of instruments, from dictates or bans to awareness raising). The results are based on the perceptions of the influential or most important actors from various innovative government and private forest initiatives in Bavaria (Germany), Slovenia, Castilla y León (Spain), Nordeste (Portugal), and Latvia (481 actor responses, 109 initiatives). The initiatives included participatory mountain forest initiatives, forest intervention zones, afforestation projects, forest owner associations, and model forest and labelling initiatives. The results provide insight into the similarities and differences between European countries and actor groups regarding the preferred facilitators and instruments for solving future forest problems. In light of disagreement in the literature on the role of the state or markets in future forest land use and the bio-economy, our results show that the market and its instruments are considered to play a dominant role in wood mobilisation. With respect to all other issues (socio-ecological, societal, other), the state or other institutions and their instruments gain priority. The state is considered to play a stronger role in developing new markets, e.g., for energy transition or new uses of wood, contrary to liberal market expectations. Ecological and social problems are considered to be outside of the market domain. Here, the state is called in, e.g., to steer recreational issues, the provision of ecosystem services, or the improvement of the protective function. The clearest preference across all regions is for the state to secure the provision of ecosystem services, in contrast to calls for future markets to regulate this field.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited